Lalu lintas is the Indonesian word for ‘traffic’. It consists of lalu ‘pass by, pass through’ and lintas ‘move by quickly’. The combination of these two verbs characterises Indonesian traffic quite well: vehicles, mostly small motorbikes and generally small cars, plus the occasional bus and truck are passing by, sometimes slow and sometimes fast.
What lalu lintas fails to reveal is that this lalu and lintas of vehicles (kendaraan) is, in Indonesia, never done in a coordinated or regulated way. Traffic signs are always ignored, traffic lights are sometimes observed, and sometimes not. But first let’s see how lalu lintas is used in a sentence.
The compound word lalu lintas, even though it consists of two words, is regarded as one lexeme and is listed in the KBBI as such. It is both a verb and a noun. Here are two examples. In the first, it acts as a verb, and in the second as a noun:
- Banyak kendaraan lalu lintas di jalan raya.
A lot of vehicles are driving on the highway.
- Lalu lintas di Kalimantan banyak dilakukan melalui sungai.
Traffic in Kalimantan is done mainly on rivers.
In Medan, North Sumatra, where the traffic is even more chaotic than in the capital, there is one major intersection where the traffic is regulated by traffic signs. There are large stop signs for the north- and south-bound traffic, while the east-west traffic has the right-of-way. Traffic at this junction is relatively smooth. Traffic jams rarely occur because most drivers know the rules. But drivers don’t adhere to the rules set by the traffic signs. Contrary to the signs, the north-south traffic has the right-of-way. This is how people know it. And this is how they do it. Traffic signs don’t matter. Not a bit.
I have lived in Indonesia for six years and I have driven thousands of kilometers with my Honda GL Pro, a 250cc motorbike, large by Indonesian standards. A situation as caught by the camera in the following video, is completely normal, and I have experienced it hundreds of times.
This is how traffic in Indonesia works. You have to be persistent and inch forwards as soon as there is an opportunity. Eventually this combined inching forward will allow you to pass the crossroad.
So here’s the video of a completely normal street in completely normal and relatively smooth traffic. Enjoy.